This is the ICE AGE. The age of the infernal internal combustion engine, the era when the car rules OK?
This is a time when a tenyearold lad complains that as the youngest of his group of friends he will be the last to get a driving licence; not last to be able to vote or able to watch adult-rated films or to drink (legally) in a pub. Sad isn’t it that kids so young are already obsessed with the car.
Oldies can be equally obsessed, though perhaps with more excuse. Some of my contemporaries, people well into retirement have become totally car-dependent. They drive everywhere, walk nowhere, haven’t been on a bike since they got a driving licence and wouldn’t dream of using their bus pass.
Then old age or illness hits them and the doctor tells them not to drive. It’s a drastic sentence, for some literally a death sentence. Once these sort stop driving they are stuck, often housebound, unable to visit friends and family and liable to sink into isolation and depression.
What is the solution? NOT, definitely not to carry on driving when your sight is failing, your hearing not as acute as it once was – OK for pottering round the house or going to the shop but not for recognising the approach of an emergency vehicle on the main road with sirens blaring. Reaction times are slower and spatial awareness falls off as you get older. Many oldies think, “I’ll be OK going just a short distance, just down to the shop or to the surgery.” Don’t risk it. The majority of accidents happen within a short distance of home.
I firmly believe this is one area where pensioners can show the way. Very few retired people HAVE to drive. Most drive because they want to, because it is convenient. For short distances, walk. For slightly longer distances ride a bike or a trike. I find my recumbent trike a godsend. Use the buses – while we still have a bus service, use it or lose it. Bus passes are not some sort of reward from a generous government – they are an entitlement, just as much as free prescriptions or the winter fuel allowance. I think that local public transport – buses and trams – should be regarded as a social service, paid for out of general taxation and free at the point of use. This would bring it into line with other services such as schools, hospitals, libraries, roads and parks. Everyone who pays income tax or council tax contributes to these services and those who wish to or need to use them.
REMEMBER – WALK, if you can. CYCLE, if you like, CATCH A BUS, if you can fine one, DRIVE, only if you must.
This would be one small step towards weaning us off our dismal dependence on the car.